Education Week - June 1, 2016 - (Page 23)

TREND LINES percent of schools to 16 percent. A rising share of students also attend the highest-poverty and most racially isolated schools-a proportion that went from 10 percent in 2000-01 to 17 percent in 2013-14, the GAO reports. The share of such isolated charter and magnet schools also increased. (Concurrently, the share of schools with zero to 25 percent of students eligible for free or reduced-price meals that were also zero to 25 percent black or Hispanic increased from 60 percent to 68 percent, according to the GAO.) And in those racially and economically isolated schools, the GAO also found, there are often fewer advancedcourse offerings. For example, in middle and high school for the 2011-12 academic year, 71 percent of low-poverty, low-minority schools offered calculus, compared with just 29 percent of highpoverty, high-minority schools. "Our analysis of education data also showed that schools that were highly isolated by poverty and race generally had fewer resources and disproportionately more disciplinary actions than other schools," the GAO report says. For Liz King of the Leadership Conference, although the effort by the Education Department to use federal aid earmarked for low-income students as leverage on issues of state and local equity is helpful, it should only be expected to do so much. "The forces that perpetuate segregation and discrimination are much more powerful than the Title I dollars available," she said. legislative branch and the school board," said Tennessee Rep. Bill Dunn, a Republican who proposed a bill this year to change that state's constitution so that judges can't weigh in on the constitutionality of the state formula. The bill came in response to a lawsuit filed by several urban districts last year. "School districts don't have to make a case to the voters for more money," Dunn said in criticizing finance lawsuits. "They just have to make it to one judge." argument they should be making," said Michael Griffith, a policy analyst with the Education Commission of the States, who has studied state funding formulas. "It shouldn't just be that 'We're equal,' district leaders said. 'It should be that we [as a district] have sufficient resources to fund an education.' " The language on public school systems in state constitutions varies widely, but most of them guarantee children a "suitable" or "efficient" education. Districts have argued that those phrases should mean that districts have an adequate level of funding that's allocated equitably among districts. While those terms may seem ambiguous, districts have used a growing body of research and data collected in recent years to prove that funding formulas prevent school leaders from reaching legislatures' own standards. In Kansas, for a suit filed in 2010, lawyer Alan Rupe said he used the state's academic standards and student-achievement gaps as measured by the state's standardized tests to argue that the funding formula left poor districts without enough money to meet those standards. Rupe's argument in that case, Gannon v. Kansas, was bolstered by two studies, one of which was commissioned by the legislature, that determined that a "suitable" education in Kansas should cost around $6,000 per student. Using that calculation, he argued the state was about $400 million short in annual funding. In 2014, the state supreme court ruled the New Approach In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the case San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez that school districts can't challenge finance formulas under the equal-protection clause of the U.S. Constitution. Districts instead began arguing in state courts that aid formulas violated state constitutions' equal-protection clauses, though those cases were rarely successful. In 1979, Ohio's Supreme Court determined in a funding-equity case brought by the Cincinnati board of education that the state's formula would only violate the constitution if the district proved that it "was receiving so little local and state revenue that the students were effectively being deprived of educational opportunity." (The state constitution requires "a thorough and efficient system of common schools throughout the state.") While Cincinnati's board lost the case, other districts across the country saw an opening. "People realized that that's the 'How Students Are Mixed' But people should not extrapolate too much from the GAO report, said Steven Rivkin, a professor of economics at the University of Illinois at Chicago who has studied school segregation and is skeptical that it is, in fact, on the rise if it is narrowly defined. According to research he's conducted, Rivkin said that the average percentage of black students' schoolmates who are white has declined since the late 1980s. But that by itself does not mean school segregation is broadly on the rise, he said. That's because overall school diversity has increased as more Latinos, in particular, enter public schools and as schools enroll a smaller share of white students. In addition, the dissimilarity between the racial makeup of schools and their overall district populations, according to his research, has declined in recent years. "Overall, segregation of black and white schools has not been rising, if you're very careful to define segrega- tion as how students are mixed, given the overall fraction of kids who are white and given the overall fraction of kids who are black," Rivkin said. Others don't think that school integration should be a lodestar for rethinking education. Revealing the extent to which traditional public schools are segregated as the result of choices by school leaders primarily serves to reveal just how flawed traditional districts and K-12 systems are in myriad ways, said RiShawn Biddle, the editor of the Dropout Nation website and an education policy consultant. Instead, Biddle essentially took Pringle's point about institutionalized racism and put it to the opposite use. He advocated a scenario in which black and Latino parents, and not district-based schools and district leaders and union officials, have direct control over how money for education is spent. "Dollars follow children. Parents direct those dollars. Then they get to have schools in their communities either run by other folks, or [which] they run themselves, that will actually work to improve the quality of education for their own children," Biddle said. "If you think you can actually win today's Indy 500 with a car that was built in 1905, that's crazy." formula is inequitable. It soon will rule on whether it also is adequate. "Basically, we beat the Kansas legislature with their own stick," Rupe said. Does Money Equal Success? In 2012, Washington's high court ruled in McLeary v. State of Washington that because the funding formula there disproportionately relied on local property taxes, the legislature had failed to make education a "paramount duty," as the state constitution requires. The Washington court has fined its state legislature $100,000 a day until it comes up with a new aid formula. In defending against finance cases, state attorneys general often argue that giving districts more money doesn't equate to academic success. The latest Texas funding lawsuit was first filed by several districts in 2011. Other districts later filed suit; eventually, more than half the state's districts were combined into a single lawsuit, which wound up before the state supreme court. In defending the state in that case, Texas Assistant Solicitor General Rance Craft argued that money alone can't fix achievement gaps. "Funding is no guarantee of better student outcomes," Craft said during oral arguments last September. "Money is not pixie dust." In five of the seven previous cases brought before the state's supreme court over the years regarding the constitutionality of the state's funding formula-some of them stretching back decades- The Government Accountability Office looked at the percentage of high-poverty schools made up mostly of black and Hispanic students compared to other schools over a period of more than a decade. Percentage of schools 60 64 69 68 18 15 31 25 9 2000-01 11 13 2005-06 2010-11 16 2013-14 Low-poverty and 0-25 percent black or Hispanic schools All other schools High-poverty and 75-100 percent black or Hispanic schools SOURCE: Government Accountability Office districts had won. This time, however, the court determined that while there were certainly achievement gaps, and that the system required "top to bottom reform," the aid formula met "minimal" constitutional standards. "Our judicial responsibility is not to second-guess or micromanage Texas education policy or to issue edicts from on high increasing financial inputs in hopes of increasing educational outputs," Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett wrote in his opinion. And in a Florida case decided May 24, Circuit Judge George Reynolds came to a similar conclusion on a challenge to the constitutionality of that state's finance formula. In his ruling, Reynolds said that "there is a not a constitutional lack of resources available in Florida schools." "That doesn't mean that everything is perfect," he wrote, "it simply means that there is not a constitutional-level crisis sufficient to warrant judicial intervention." To Levy, the University of Kansas legal scholar, such rulings are the judges' way of saying: "Enough is enough. This formula is close enough. We'll take it. We're going to wipe our hands of this process." Even if judges agree that a state's funding formula is responsible for academic disparities, courts often don't want to get involved in the process of determining what is constitutional. "These cases don't ever seem to end," Levy said. "What would they do if the legislature says no? You can't jail legislators, because they have legislative immunity." " I've seen what's going on across the states, where judges are stepping in and trying to become the legislative branch and the school board." REP. BILL DUNN (R) Tennessee Legislature EDUCATION WEEK | June 1, 2016 | | 23

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - June 1, 2016

Education Week - June 1, 2016
In Special Education, A Debate on Bias
Proposed ESSA Rules Aim to Strike Balance
Civil Rights Office Gets Aggressive
Charter Movement Fuels Boom For Public Montessori Schools
News in Brief
Report Roundup
Transgender Debate: What’s Next?
Free Website Expands on EngageNY’s Mission
Study on Teacher Test Finds Mixed Results
Blogs of the Week
Digital Learning Games Breaking Into K-12 Mainstream
Girls Outperform Boys on First National Test of Tech, Engineering
Oregon Creates a ‘Lens’ for Viewing Educational Equity
High School Takes Cue From Montessori
School Finance Suits: More Than Just a Legal Roll of the Dice?
Report Feeds Into Debate Over Racial, Economic Inequities
Blogs of the Week
Policing Girls of Color in School
The Plight of Black Girls in K-12 Schools
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Black Girls, Discipline, and Schools

Education Week - June 1, 2016